Monday, January 2, 2017

Goodbye, Staffan Lindeberg

A photo Staffan sent me, showing him 
weighing a Kitavan man as part of the 
Kitava Study.
I recently heard the sad news that Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD, lead researcher of the Kitava Study, has died.

Staffan was a dedicated researcher and physician at Lund University in Sweden whose work was inspired by the evolutionary health principle.  After reading Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner's seminal 1985 paper on Paleolithic nutrition, in Staffan's words, "it gradually dawned on me that John Harvey Kellogg, a vegetarian zealot, had more influence on dietary advice than Charles Darwin had" (Staffan Lindeberg. Food and Western Disease. 2010).  Long before it was en vogue, he adopted a Paleo-style diet and saw his own chronic disease risk factors, such as body weight and blood pressure, decline.

Shortly thereafter, Staffan organized the Kitava Study-- an investigation into the diet and health of one of the few remaining cultures scarcely touched by industrialization.  Although Kitavans weren't hunter-gatherers by any stretch of the imagination, they did eat a starchy diet free of grains, dairy, refined sugar, refined oils, and all processed foods.  In a series of papers, Staffan reported that the Kitavans showed undetectable levels of obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, and stroke-- even in old age.  He went on to conduct randomized, controlled trials on the Paleolithic diet, demonstrating that it can reduce chronic disease risk factors in a Western context.  He published an overview his findings in a book, Food and Western Disease.

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  1. Agreed, he was a great man and researcher.RIP.

  2. So sad and premature. Thanks for the eulogy.

  3. Seems like a fine man who did good work. I'm glad you got to talk and work with him.

  4. What were the conditions of his death?
    How old was he?

  5. So sorry to hear this. What a nice man and his work was important to us all.

    RIP Staffan.

  6. What desperately sad news :( :( :(

    I met him last year briefly at a seminar; charming, open minded, with a truly inquiring mind and passion for 'humanity'.

    His work and observations were invaluable; what a loss to the research community.

    My sincere condolences to all that knew and worked with him.

  7. I have his book, and the Kitava study was surely most influential in nutrition circles. I am shocked as he was quite young.

  8. Glad we both got to meet him that time we were all in the Internet, as I believe you coined it.

    I recall him telling me, "I had nothing to do with the price of that book."

    What a giant.

  9. Sorry to hear this sad news. Staffan was one of the greats in the field.

  10. sorry to hear this, he was an often invited speaker across Europe on the concept of paleolithic diet in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and overweight.

  11. He was only 66, but he graduated late. to the eternal shame of University of Lund, he was never promoted to full professor. Surely he has produced more than thousands of random drug pushers that populate academia.

  12. He was one of my favorite researchers. Not only because of his excellent and pioneering work, but also because he was so kind, humble and openminded compared to so many other researchers or «gurus»/bloggers. A couple of years ago he tweeted: «My mom recently passed away of pneumonia age 95. No Western disease. I will eat like her. (Well, she more or less followed my advice.)». Alas, he didn´t get that old. I agree, his death is just an anecdote. His mother living to age 95 free of western disease following a similar diet the past decades of her life, is another anecdote. Diet isn´t everything, and what works for one person, may not work for another.

    Still, he looked old for his age and I have been wondering if something was wrong with his diet (which I assume was similar to the samples found on his website), even from a paleo perspective. Did he get optimal amounts of calcium and vitamin D relative to phosphorus and magnesium for example? This is known to accelerate the aging process in cats and dogs, at least, and likely increase the risk of various cancers, including the pancreatic cancer he died from. Living in dark Sweden will make this matter worse. And really, the amount of calcium found in the diet of many modern «paleo dieters» is typically too low for example to supply what is needed for a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, even if they go to great length to select all the greens that have the most absorbable calcium (spinach has almost none) and the nuts (like almonds) with the most calcium etc. But hunter gatherers do not have the digestive system required, nor the wish to eat pounds and pounds of greens, as gorillas or cows do. So something isn´t quite right about all of this. The truth, however, is that calcium is always found along with animal foods, abundantly in insect shells or small eggs like from ants or fish, in small fish etc. But we don´t eat much of these foods. Then the only option is the bones from large animals, or bone meal supplements, which those in the paleo movement also typically stay away from. Also, did he consume any coconut products, as the Kitavans he studied did? This has also been suggested to reduce the risk of cancer, perhaps through the antiviral effect of lauric acid/monolaurin.

  13. Thank you Stephan for posting this. I would not otherwise have known of Dr. Lindeberg's passing. I also appreciate you listing his book Food and Western Disease as a reference book on your website because, again, I might not have heard of his work otherwise. I purchased his book several years ago and find it fascinating. God speed to a fine human being.

  14. After reading this post, I'm sorry I did not know of Staffan until now. It appears to be a good person and researcher.

    Because of the many health benefits that I have experienced, I have been eating a low carb, high fat diet for the past 15 years. However, as Staffan has apparently shown, everyone is different. I think that is a very important nutritional lesson. (Which btw makes the wide of range anecdotal evidence logical, at least, to me) This lesson has been 'discovered' by two very different nutritional experts, Dr. Christopher Gardner and Dr. Atkins.

  15. guiseppe014:

    I've often wondered about calcium and you make some interesting observations.

    What do you think about canned sardines (with the bones) for a good way to get calcium naturally?

  16. I was a close friend of Staffan since 35 years and can only add to the many so sympathetic condolences here, the tragic loss of a diligent,true,bold,very talented,respectful and very friendly friend, family physician,associate professor,researcher,husband and musician!
    Of course we cannot say anything substantial about the cause of his fatal disease .The impression to all of us that know him and met him regularly was his youthfulness ,rapid movements and mind,he really seemed much younger than an ordinary swedish pensionary.Amid all sorrow it will be a lasting comfort to be able to listen to him or to hear him play his music on youtube.

  17. If Guiseppe is the same person posting as Giu on paleohacks (and he looks like it), he has posted a number of times on mineral balance. Mineral balance is a big thing in animal husbandry, and one wonders why it is not applied to humans as well. Re: calcium, I put powdered egg shells in my smoothies for a long time, yet I found no change in my well being when I stopped that (I stopped potato starch in the smoothies at the same time). I still eat the cartilage and surrounding bone of roasted birds. I also note that Ca absorption in the gut is related to vit. D status. If you have good vit. D, absorption improves.

    Influenced by Giu, I started juicing instead, for the purpose of increasing the K, Mg and Ca content of my diet. I have a large garden with large amounts of trash greens (daikon and turnip tops, cutting celery, clover, wild thistle, collard stems, mustard greens), perfectly edible but too coarse for salads, while maintaining a high consumption of salads and potherbs. It seems unlikely that, if there is a mineral deficiency related to poor greens consumption, the deficiency be limited to Ca. In particular no one ever gets the 4.7 grams of K which are the current RDA. K pills are not commercially available except in 100mg amounts (1/47 of the RDA), so juicing is the only way out of this conundrum.

  18. When you look at the question "Do prominent health gurus live longer?", the answer tends to be often "no" - unfortunately:

  19. Staffan was one of my favorite researchers and I have largely based my diet off his studies on the Kitavans. Does anyone know what kind of diet he ate? It might not be in good taste to be asking this and I know diet isn't always everything but there is always that thought in the back of your mind that you might not be eating the correct diet for longevity.

  20. The answer to living longer is not related to guru-ism. Dr. Perls work gets to the heart of the matter.

    It'd be interesting to see what the model does with Lindeberg's data. I've plugged published information for both Dr. Atkins and Ancel Keys and gotten projections wthin a year of their actual lifetimes.

  21. This may not be the place for a lengthy discussion about calcium. However, I just looked at some studies published late last year. (1) found that «Total calcium intake (≥1,400 vs. <600 mg/d) was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of colon cancer (multivariable relative risk: 0.78, 95%CI: 0.65-0.95). Similar results were observed by different sources of calcium (from all foods or dairy products only)". (, and (2) «After full adjustment for demographics, lifestyle factors, CVD risk factors, and use of calcium supplements, we found that among participants with a baseline CAC [coronary artery calcification] of zero, the highest calcium intake (≥1453 mg) compared to the lowest intake (<434 mg) was associated with a 27% decreased risk for incident CAC, suggesting a protective effect of total calcium intake in the highest consumers of overall calcium. However, when considering supplement use, the risk of developing incident CAC was 22% higher in those who used supplements than those who did not.» (

    Many modern «paleo dieters» obtain less than 400-600 mg calcium/day, and additionally they often supplement magnesium. In Loren Cordain´s book «the paleo diet for athletes», there is a 2200 kcal example diet supplying 690 mg calcium, 640 mg magnesium and 2550 mg phosphorus. However if it wasn´t for the 2 ounces of almonds and one pound of broccoli in this example, the calcium intake would just have been just 300 mg. A case can be made for a significant higher calcium requirement, at least if it comes from food. Whether eggshell, insect shell (calcium carbonate mainly) and bone meal (calcium bound to phosphorus - similar as in dairy) work differently than isolated calcium supplements, and whether taking it with meals versus for example on empty stomach at bedtime, makes a difference, is not clear. It seems that for dogs and carnivores in general very high intakes of calcium from bones is fairly non toxic compared to calcium carbonate, however cause soft tissue and vascular calcification if supplemented with large quantities of vitamin D. This may have something to do with the low magnesium intake found in carnivore diets however, i.e. just 200-300 mg magnesium, 3000-5000 mg calcium and 2500-4000 mg phosphorus/2500 kcal (about the same as in cow milk). Fred Kummerow et al showed several decades ago that the offsprings of sows added just 1000 IU vitamin D3 per pound of feed, developed arterial lesions after 6 weeks ( Later they found that adding more magnesium was protective.

    Hard water can also be a significant source of calcium (and sometimes magnesium) usually not accounted for in studies like those mentioned above. It is believed that a reason for the longevity of people in the Nicoya region in Costa rica has to do with calcium rich water which may supply alone as much as 1000 mg calcium/day. Their intake of dairy products is very low.

  22. THHQ, I just visited that page. The guy makes boilerplate recommendations some of which are completely incorrect. He says minimize UV exposure, makes no mention of triglycerides in his cholesterol recommendations, no mention of LDL particle size, suggests red meat be cut back to 1-2/week (as opposed to 3-5), suggests calcium supplements, and suggests that I take aspirin. and why should he not recommend intermittent fasting, regardless?

    Guiseppe, calcium in water is something I looked at, as well as calcium in bone broth. The numbers are tiny. My tap water is as hard as it can be, with a pH of 9.3, but it offers only 51 mg per liter. I do simmer broths two days and I drink a pint every day but two days give you extra Ca at the level of 50 mg per liter again.

    I also note that in animal husbandry, as well as the original papers by a french scientist whose name escapes me, a Ca/Mg ratio between 0.5 and 1 is considered optimal, so I see no downside to 400mg of Mg, specially if your vitamin D levels are high and assist in Ca absorption.

    The main apparent problem in the Cordain recommendations is the awful Ca/P ratio, which should be greater than one but is about 0.25 (as recommended in animal husbandry). We should strive to obtain nutrient ratios similar to the diet we had in the savanna, and I see no escape from eating large amounts of greens daily. They alone have the high K, high Ca, high Mg we need, in proper ratios, while keeping P low. as soon as you try to get those nutrients without greens, P and other indesirable things shoot up (due to beans, nuts, dairy).


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